Confronting Carbon Inequality: Putting climate justice at the heart of the COVID-19 recovery

The report assesses the consumption emissions of different income groups between 1990 and 2015 – 25 years when humanity doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. During 2020, and with around 1C of global heating, climate change has fuelled deadly cyclones in India and Bangladesh, huge locust swarms that have devastated crops across Africa and unprecedented heatwaves and wildfires across Australia and the US. No one is immune but it is the poorest and most marginalized people who are hardest hit. For example, women are at increased risk of violence and abuse in the aftermath of a disaster. Despite sharp falls in carbon emissions in 2020 linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis – which is driven by the accumulation of emissions in the atmosphere over time – continued to grow. This briefing describes new research that shows how extreme carbon inequality in recent decades has brought the world to the climate brink. It sets out how governments must use this historic juncture to build fairer economies within the limits our planet can bear. Unequal economic growth slows poverty reduction rates. The World Bank recently concluded that continued unequal growth will barely make a dent in the number of people living on less than $1.90 per day by 2030; only a reduction in income inequality will help. One estimate suggests it would take around 200 years at current rates to lift everyone above the $5.50 poverty line – a terribly inefficient and morally indefensible approach to poverty reduction.